Fishes exhibit a remarkable diversity of body shape as adults; however, it is unknown whether this diversity is reflected in larval stage morphology. Here we investigate the relationship between larval and adult body shape as expressed by body elongation. We surveyed a broad range of ray-finned fish species and compared body shape at larval and adult stages. Analysis shows that the vast majority of fish are more elongate at the larval stage than at the adult stage, and that adults display greater interspecies variation than larvae. We found that the superorder Elompomorpha is unique because many species within the group do not follow the observed elongation trends. These results indicate that much of the diversity observed in adults is achieved in post-larval stages. We suggest that larval morphology is subject to common constraints across the phylogeny.